Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Before I actually say what I intend to say here, I just want to mention that I really think my "Ode to a Krispy Kreme" is hilarious. I just re-read it and laughed again. It's certainly not Wordsworth or Robbie Burns, but it sure is funny (if I _do_ say so myself!)! It's below this posting. You'll probably need it by the time you get through this one. I'd apologize for this one's length, except that I think it's all necessary exposition for the "moral" of the story to make sense.


Pretty much ever since I can remember, my dad's had our family sing in churches and for revivals and such. One of his dreams in life is to get one of those big tour buses with "The Turner Family Singers" painted prettily on the side in which we'll drive from revival to revival across the country, singing together. Heh...all of the guys he's tried to set me up with have had one thing in common - they filled an empty spot in the "Turner Family Band." :) And ever since I can remember, I've pretty much hated doing it. For a painfully shy little girl to get up in front of crowds of people and sing songs not of her choosing...well...was a painful experience. At one point in high school or college, I refused, stating that I would no longer be a performing animal. Don't get me wrong - I love singing, always have. I love playing the flute, I love playing the piano (it was at my request that I began learning both instruments, and while I never practiced, I also never wanted to quit). But I've never liked singing or playing in front of people except in a large group like a choir or a school band.

Even when I began to sing solos in church again of my own accord at the end of college, I had (and still have) serious stage fright issues. I always wear long skirts when I sing - not because I'm up on a platform and don't want people to see things they shouldn't (well, that too, but that wasn't my _primary_ reason) - because my knees shake considerably. Apparently it's never been visible, but let me tell you that there's nothing worse for your state of mind than knowing that you're so nervous you no longer have control of your knee caps. It also makes it difficult to walk off the stage when you're done. :) My nervousness has also come out in mistakes that I've made. There was one awful Sunday night that I was called in as substitute pianist. On Sunday nights, our church's tradition was that the pianist would play the offertory instead of the organist, just to give the organist a break. She offered to play something, but I was determined that I could play a piece that I'd played pretty well on a different occasion. Well, as many at my home church will remember, it was rather awful. I finished the song, but that's about all I can say for myself.

All growing up when we'd sing, we'd have to talk to people afterwards (perhaps that's really what I feared most). I can only remember one specific time that this happened, but really, once is enough with some things. Many of you know my older brother, Jesse, and know how great a voice he has. He's sung with several opera companies, he majored in Music Ed with a vocal emphasis in college, he's the director of the Music City Barbershop Chorus in Nashville, his collegiate quartet won their district one year and came in 7th in the international competition - there're just no two ways about it, he's got a great voice. And Daddy's got the desire. You can't stop my dad from singing or from performing for people. He's a showman at heart and loves to get a crowd into whatever he's doing. I was told many, many times throughout my childhood and since what a "sweet" voice I have. To me, that's a euphemism for small, childish, and breathy, and although the people who've told me things like "you have the voice of an angel" (which is another euphemism for the same things, in my book) meant well, I only ever heard "small, childish, and breathy." My technique, my enunciation, and my pitch are usually close to flawless, but all I hear is that my voice is small, childish, and breathy. Jesse had the great voice. The experience I was referring to earlier was the time when this little, old lady came up to me after we'd sung at some church and all she said to me was "Your brother has such a wonderful voice!" There was nothing for me to do but agree, because it's true...but man, did that sting. I felt like shaking her and yelling. "I SANG TOO!!!! Go tell HIM that he has a great voice!"

Anyway, I let myself get caught up in engineering things and my then-boyfriend during college and got away from musical things for the most part. But when things started going south with my boyfriend and with other school things, I realized how much I missed and needed it. So he and I joined the choir at my church, and occasionally I'd run up to the music building for a piano fix. That helped some, but life didn't really get any better. After dating for 3 years, the guy that I'd expected to marry and I broke up. At the same time, I hadn't graduated like I was supposed to, but I didn't have anymore classes to take, so I wasn't a "student" and couldn't keep my job at a campus research lab (where I'd met my boyfriend and where basically all of our friends worked), and I wasn't graduated, so I couldn't start grad school like I'd planned...and life was pretty much a mess. Friends gave me babysitting opportunities to make ends meet, and helped me find a job, but that was one of the worst times in my life.

The following January, I made my return to the church solo rotation singing "Life is Hard (But God is Good)" by Pam Thum. The chorus says:

Life is hard, the world is cold.
You're barely young, and then, you're old.
But every falling tear is always understood.
Life is hard....but God is Good.

Apparently the song made people cry. And after church that Sunday a guy named Jim came up to me and mentioned that he had friends who'd help me find places to sing if I ever wanted to sing professionally. I literally laughed in his face, then explained my laughter by saying that my dad and brother were the singers in the family...I was just a third voice in the trio. He was surprised at my reaction, but let me go at that. I kept singing for church and slowly gained confidence...started learning guitar...and even gathered a few non-family folk who liked hearing me sing so much that they'd get the tapes from the services. I thought they were crazy, but Ed and Gary liked my voice so much that I couldn't really keep hiding behind the thought that people were just being nice.

In the meantime, I'd begun singing with the adult and youth praise teams in addition to my regular spot in the choir. While I was uncomfortable with "leading" the services (something which I've overcome and which will be the subject of a later posting), I didn't mind being one of the singers and really enjoyed being able to do different harmonies. There were still moments of nervousness, but for the most part, since I was part of a group, I was ok. Then Stephan left and I got "promoted" to keyboard player for the adult praise team. Talk about scary. Ever since I'd been in middle school, I'd had this mental block when it came to accompanying people as they sang, and especially with playing hymns. Heh...playing hymns wasn't going to be a problem in _that_ service, but I was still accompanying people. Slowly though, I came to realize that I could do it and I even wasn't half bad at it. Who knew that after 9 years of piano lessons, plus (at the time) 6 or 7 years just playing on my own since ending my lessons, that I would actually be able to _play_ the piano. ;p

Then God started working on my next mental block - playing and singing at the same time. I'd been able to play piano. I'd been able to sing. But except for a very few instances, I'd not been able to do both at once. But with the arrival of Bryan at the helm of our church's worship and music ministry, I started singing and playing keyboard for the adult praise team...and I discovered that I could do it. I even discovered that I could sing harmonies and little obbligatos and echo things (not just melody lines) while playing piano.

The next mental block on which work is still continuing is playing piano simply from chords instead of actual notes. I'm still in the process of discovering that I can do that too. And not just block chords either. That circle of 5ths that I learned in middle school and wondered what the heck it was for is finally starting to show its usefulness!

During this time, I was also getting more and more comfortable playing guitar. I'd begun playing and singing (that was never a problem with the guitar) regularly for the youth at their Wednesday night meetings. I even tortured my church with a couple of solos with me playing guitar and singing.

But it wasn't just my musical abilities that I was insecure about. My older brother was the singer, my younger brother the actor, and my younger sister the writer. I was the "smart one." Except that I've never really been sure of that. I've never been secure in my engineering abilities. The minimum that I know I've scored on an IQ test is a 133 (and I've been offered membership in Mensa), but I don't know in my heart that I'm intelligent. I'm not sure that I'm a good leader or a good example. I still don't think that I'm a good teacher, despite my several years with the 3rd and 4th graders in Sunday School where everyone loved me or my time with the youth group. I've always been afraid that I was really just a big failure and everyone was just being nice. Either that, or I'd been able to hide my failures from people effectively enough that they just didn't know, so I had to keep up a perfect facade so that no one ever found out.

Part of that sprang from being a church staff kid. It was never voiced to me that I know of, but I know that I grew up thinking that if I screwed up, my dad could get fired and we'd have to move. That's a heavy load for a kid to bear. After I was on my own, it was something of a pride issue for me to keep up the family honor by continuing in my perfectionism.

Additionally, with the failure of my college relationship and many thereafter, I've begun to suspect that not only am I certifiably insane, but I'm also apparently unlovable and/or unable to love.

This also came into play in the workplace. Repeatedly my boss would tell me that I was a valuable member of the team and had a lot to contribute - if I'd just SAY something in the meetings. I felt that I wasn't knowledgeable enough on the various subjects to voice an opinion, despite the fact that we _were_ the "experts" in the field on what we were doing.

Then I came overseas and was back to where I'd been in college - sans musical outlets. I thought I'd be ok. I'd brought my guitar along, but didn't really have anyplace in which to play. I bought a piano, but I didn't have many piano books from which to play, and for some reason, what I was really craving (other than Hanon from time to time) was to play things that I could sing along with. Then when my mom sent most of my books out, she "somehow" managed to miss almost all of the ones that had the songs I usually sang and played.

The past few months have been quite a time of pain and growing for me. Within about a week in January, I was told first that the work we were doing out at the schools wasn't worth the company's money because it wasn't reaching enough people, then we received the notification that the granting agency wanted all their money back (y'all remember that fiasco), then all the work that I'd done for the previous 8 months was publicly made fun of and called a failure in a meeting of the entire Iraq team (and no one except myself came to its defense). Those were hard blows to take. A few months later, I was told that I had no passion for the people here and that I should consider resigning. I've also been told that my typical human behavior is unforgivable.

Additionally, the musical niches I'd found for myself (on Sunday mornings with the soldiers and on Saturday evenings with our group) were taken away, partially first by people who were better musically (in my opinion anyway) than I, then completely for policy reasons with which I don't agree.

And Evan showed up again. How could this add to my insecurity you ask? Well, the next time you get married and your husband sees _your_ scars from getting lumps removed instead of a perfect body...let me know how _you_ feel.

So how do you spell "failure" after all of that? L-E-I-A (except with my real name).

The Enemy has been having fun with me all my life, telling me that I'm not good enough, I'm not pretty enough, I'm not smart enough, I don't know enough, I'm not talented enough, I've not worked hard enough, I'm too scarred, I've messed up too many times, I'm unlovable, etc. And the worst thing about it is that I've just been letting him do it. I'd hide my insecurity behind the thought that I just had a "healthy" appreciation of my personal strengths and weaknesses. That I knew my limits.

Back when I'd been asked to resign, several wise friends of mine here told me that it wasn't about what I'd done or not done or whether it was right or wrong - it was about what I was supposed to be learning through all of this. At the time, I thought it was a lesson in obedience to my calling and submission to the authority placed over me by God. I'm sure that those things were part of it...but I think that the underlying thing that He's really been trying to work out in me (for a long time now) is my insecurity. It doesn't matter what other people think of as my successes or failures. As long as I'm doing what He's called me to do, and am basing my decisions and actions on His Word and the wise counsel of mature believers, then I will never be a "failure" in His eyes - and those are the only Eyes that matter. I may never see results in this life from the work that has been done here, my life may be a complete failure in the world's eyes, but that doesn't matter because it's not y'all's opinions that count. (No offense.)

The other part of it is that I'm not taking anything away from Jesse by singing or Toby by acting or Bethie by writing. I don't have to stay within the "smart one" mold because that's not _all_ of who I am. He has gifted me uniquely, just as he has gifted them and others. My job is simply to use the talents that He's given to me, not compare those with the talents he's given to others. I may never have the "soul" that Iris has, the vibrato that Tricia has, the clarity that Becky has, or the range (vocally or stylistically) that Nona has...but I have the voice that He gave me. "He made me special and He loves me very much." :) I'm no Judy, Lauramae, Kay, Stephan, or Jody, but I can play piano. I may not be JM (or any of the dozens other amazingly smart people that I know), but I'm smart (and it's ok to be smart)...and not only that, but I can tell a joke too (that was another insecurity that I didn't mention). I can play guitar. I can cook (yes I can, Aunt Mom ;p ). My body is exactly the way He wants it, scars and all. And most importantly, I'm lovable and able to love. I'm still scared to death in that particular regard, but I'm trying to keep "in sha'allah" at the forefront of my mind, knowing that He uses our past hurts to prepare us for our futures and to make us appreciate what He's been preparing for us (and us for) all along.

So, given my new-found attempt at not letting my fears and insecurities stop me from using the gifts He's given me, I'm going to let y'all in on a secret that I've had since February. In February of 2004, I wrote my first song. Someday when I figure out how to attach a file to this site, I'll let y'all hear me sing and play it (on piano even, although I wrote it using my guitar and only later on figured out the piano accompaniment). But in the meantime, you just get the words. I'd give you the chords, but they won't do you any good without knowing the melody. But for those musicians out there, as you can probably guess from the words, it's in a minor key (Em) and is relatively slow.

So in the immortal words of Stuart from either SNL or MadTV (I don't remember which), "Look what I can do!"
I Wait

As the years go by; (as the years go by)
I wait, wait on You.
I see the grey more and more each day.
As I wait, wait on You.

I try to be faithful. I try to be true.
I try to follow Your will.

What are You teaching me? What are You showing me
As I wait, wait on You?
What are You teaching me? What are You showing me
As I wait, wait on You?

Show me the next step, help me to wait,
Help me to wait on You.

I need to wait, wait on You.
Wait on You.
Wait on You.

And yes, Jeremy. It ends with an E major chord. :)

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